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Full text of "My country and my people"

LITERARY    LIFE                           263
is a novel of adventure and home love combined. It has invalidated Chinese tales of mystery, as in the Paokung An (Cases of Paokung)y and makes the development of the detective story impossible, which is due also to such causes as the lack of scientific reasoning and the cheapness of Chinese lives. For when a Chinese dies the general conclusion is that he is dead, and that is final. The Chinese detective, Paokung, who is, by the way, a magistrate himself, solves his mysteries and murders always by visions in dreams instead of by Sherlock Holmes's reasoning.
In looseness of plot, the Chinese novel is like the novels of D. H. Lawrence, and in length Hke the Russian novels of Tolstoy and Dostoievsky. The similarity between Chinese and Russian novels is quite apparent. Both have an extremely realistic technique, both revel in details, both content themselves with telling the story without the subjectivity characteristic of the novels of Western Europe. Fine psychological portrayal there is, but there is very little room for the author to expand over his psychological knowledge. The story is told primarily as a story. In unmitigated delineation of stark depravity, too, the Gold-Vase-Plum has nothing to lose by comparison with The Brothers Karamazov. The plot is generally best in the class described as love romances, but in the novel of social manners, which has been in vogue in the last three decades, the plot wanders and disperses into a series of badly connected anecdotes and short stories interesting in themselves. The short story itself did not even come into being until the very last decade, when modern writers are trying to create something similar to what they have read in Western literature in the original or in translation.
On the whole, the tempo of the Chinese novel reflects very well the tempo of Chinese life. It is enormous, big and variegated and is never in a hurry. The novel is avowedly created to kill time, and when there is plenty of time to kill and the reader in no hurry to catch a train, there is no reason why he must hurry to the end. A Chinese novel should be read slowly and with good temper. When there are flowers on the way, who is going to forbid the traveller from stopping to cull them?